You’ve Been Furloughed – Now What?

A full-time job is a great way to guarantee security in your life. However, full-time work can be a hard thing to secure, especially during a pandemic. If you’re one of the 33 million workers who have been furloughed or laid off since the beginning of the pandemic, you’re probably feeling uncertain about your future, what you should do, and where you should go for help.

Confusion and uncertainty about the future are all common reactions to being furloughed. Understanding exactly what being furloughed means and your options for the future can help. Sometimes a furlough is just a blip on the screen – a temporary interruption in your typical job. In some cases, it can lead to a permanent layoff. But take heart – that it can also lead to a new (and better!) career.

What Does it Mean to be Furloughed?

A furlough is an unpaid temporary leave of absence mandated by your employer.

A company generally furloughs workers during slow periods when there is little work, or due to tough economic times when it’s impossible to meet the expectations of having a full payroll.The act of furloughing employees is designed to keep a business afloat during a temporary slowdown. If all goes well, furloughed workers are expected to return after a designated period of time.

There are multiple ways an employer may handle a furlough. In some instances, employees are required to take off a certain number hours each week, or a specific amount of days during the year. Some employees may be asked to transition to a reduced schedule as well, such as twenty or twenty-five hours per week. 

Another type of furlough, which is more common, is when workers are required to take weeks or months of unpaid leave until the company’s situation improves. Since a furlough is expected to be temporary, employees can continue benefits coverage, and can usually expect to keep their pay and position upon return. 

Getting Paid During Furlough

Since a furlough is an unpaid absence, your employer won’t pay wages while you’re not working. However, if you expect to be furloughed for a long period of time (usually more than a few weeks), your employer may encourage you to apply for unemployment benefits. After you’re approved for unemployment, you’ll likely need to answer a series of questions each week regarding your current employment status. Furloughed employees who are receiving unemployment can search for new employment or even work part-time. But it’s important to remember that any income you receive while furloughed will be documented and affect the amount you receive each week.

What’s the difference between a furlough and a layoff?

The words furlough and layoff are often sometimes interchangeably, but they don’t mean the same thing. While the same circumstances often trigger both layoffs and furloughs, the results can be very different. A furlough is technically considered a leave of absence, which means you’re still listed as an employee and expected to return to work eventually. 

Comparatively, a layoff discharges an employee completely. Laid off employees are considered fully terminated without the intent of bringing them back on, and you will not continue on the company’s benefits program. It’s important to note that a furlough can become a layoff over time if the circumstances causing the furlough don’t improve.

Looking Toward the Future

During uncertain times, looking toward the future can seem scary, daunting, or even hopeless. No matter what employment situation you’re facing, it’s important to remember you have many options. While many employees entered a furlough with confidence they would return to work quickly, it’s always possible that may not be the case. If your employer remains uncertain about the future of the business, you may be thinking about applying for other jobs. If you’re unsure about waiting out your furlough, ask yourself these questions:

  • Can I afford to wait to begin job hunting? 
    • Most furloughed employees have been receiving a stimulus bonus along with customary unemployment rates. Without the additional $600 weekly from the CARES act, can you afford to remain unemployed?
  • Do I want to wait? 
    • While the idea of losing the security of your current job is scary, many people might be happier with a new occupation in the future. Is your job worth waiting for?
  • Do I stand to gain more than what I’m leaving behind? 
    • Make a list of what you love about your current job and the vital benefits it provides, like a good salary and healthcare. Compare these benefits with the ones you might get in a new role at another organization. Take the time to really evaluate what career perks are important to you.
  • Am I ready to face the remote work needs of today in a new occupation? 
    • Getting a new job is intimidating in its own right. Still, you typically have the opportunity to attend face-to-face interviews, orientation, and training. Now, you’ll likely be training in a virtual environment. Are you prepared to adapt to the remote workstyle you’ll need to succeed?
  • Can I gain more value by learning new skills while unemployed? 
    • Are there new skills you could learn that will be in demand at your current workspace? Being furloughed doesn’t mean you have to remain stagnant while you wait. Would taking advantage of one of the many free learning opportunities online bring you more benefits than searching for a new job?

Working with a Recruiter to Determine the Best Path Forward

Seeking a new career during any situation can be a nerve-wracking experience. As the entire world seems to be facing uncertainty about the future, it feels more difficult than ever. Determining the best course of action for your employment future isn’t something you have to do alone. A recruiting agency works with employers and potential employees in a variety of industries to create perfect career matches. Career Group Companies is a recruiting firm that works in a variety of industries to match top companies with qualified candidates. Get in touch with us at our offices in Los Angeles, New York, San Francisco, and Greenwich, to learn more about how you can make the most of your time while being furloughed. Talk to a Career Group Companies recruiter to go over your options today.

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